A blog about dogs and their behavior, and how we love them
Author: Dawn Gardner, CPDT-KA
Dawn M. Gardner is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, a professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), and a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), Modern Dog Group, and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). She is an expert in behavior modification and dog training.
There’s nothing more fun than a new puppy… for the first few days. And then reality sets in that your new puppy has some flaws (at least according to human standards). He poops on the floor, cries at night, barks, chews on the furniture, and steals your favorite shoes. In short, he’s a monster.
Okay, maybe he’s not as bad as that. But puppies are a lot of work. Parents who are considering adding a new puppy this Christmas would be wise to ask themselves a few questions before placing a little bundle of fur under the tree:
Am I ready for the expense of having a puppy? From the cost of a new pair of heels to the required veterinary care, even the healthiest of pups can cost a mint the first year. And they continue to cost a lot, usually for over a decade.
Am I ready to take care of a puppy? Think the kids will feed and water the dog, train the dog, and walk the dog? Think again. By the time most kids are responsible enough to care for a dog they are too busy to be bothered. Parents tend to end up the primary caregivers, or at the very least, they end up following the children around making sure they have provided for Pup.
Am I ready to make sure my puppy receives adequate socialization? A healthy puppy requires more than food and water. He needs to be socialized before he is 12 weeks old in order to be emotionally healthy.
Am I ready to entertain the puppy? A bored puppy is a force of destruction. He will spend a lot of time exploring his environment. If you don’t find ways to entertain him you will find that he entertains himself in ways you may regret.
Am I ready to make a lifetime commitment to this puppy? He’s going to get big, and then he’s going to get old. If you cannot be there for him when he is geriatric then please consider getting a hamster.
Be committed and ready before you bring the dog home. If you answered yes to all of these questions, and if you are willing to remain calm in the face of destruction then you may be ready for a puppy. But this is a decision with long-lasting consequences for everyone involved. Christmas is over in a day, but your puppy needs care for decades.
Some of you have met my little Killian in past blog entries or on his Facebook page. One thing I don’t talk a lot about with Killian is how incredibly difficult he can be to medicate. Now, I am not new to medicating dogs. I have even been hired by clients to come over and give medication to difficult dogs. But Killian is a master at avoiding his pills.
When I first got Killian I actually took him to the vet every day so they could give him his meds. Killian is not just paraplegic. He also suffers from epilepsy and chronic hepatitis. He takes a lot of medication to keep him going.
Killian is a small dog, so one would expect that, at the very least, I could force the pills down him. And I have. But Killian has learned how to cheek them or keep them just in the top of his throat where I cannot see them. As soon as I turn my back on him, ptooey! And he has some range – on occasion over six feet. The pill ends up across the room, and I am on my knees trying to locate it. Because not only are his pills varied for each condition, some of them are also extremely expensive.
So I feel your pain if you have a dog that is difficult to pill. Here are the options I have used over the years. Not all work with all dogs, but I find that usually one of them does work.
Wrapping the pill in something yummy is usually sufficient for most dogs. American cheese works well if you don’t want to purchase pill pockets. Or a small piece of bread can work in a pinch.
Peanut butter is an experience all its’ own when pilling dogs. Some dogs it works well. They cannot help but smack their lips and lick and swallow the delicious gooey mess.
Force is my least favorite way to pill a dog, but in life or death situations it may be necessary. I always feel terrible opening a dogs mouth by force. But if you need to do it, the easiest way is to place your hand over your dog’s muzzle with the thumb on one side and your index finger on the other. Find the gap in the teeth (about half way back) and press in. You will find you can gently pull the mouth open. Place the pill as far back in the mouth as you can (using a pill syringe can make this easier) and close the dog’s mouth, holding the head in a normal position (parallel to the ground). Sometimes rubbing the throat will help the dog swallow. Gently hold the muzzle closed long enough that the dog swallows the pill.
Depending on the pill you may be able to crush it (or open a capsule) into something tasty. Always ask your vet before you do this as some medicines are made to dissolve slowly, and this will release all the medication at once. Your vet may also know just how strong the flavor is on the pills. Killian’s vet and I have worked to find pills that I can do this with. I use a little yogurt or kefir.
Yeah, I know. If you are reading this you have probably tried all of this. I certainly tried and failed with all of these methods with Killian. A few tweaks can turn these failures into success. Here are the tweaks!
When wrapping the pills in choice one above, also make several small balls of cheese or whatever you are using that are identical to the one that houses the pill. Throw these on the floor one at a time and let your dog gobble them up. Usually by the second or third your dog is no longer taking the time to taste or chew. At this point, throw the “meatball” with the pill in it. Chances are your dog will gobble it up! I have yet to encounter a dog that cannot be fooled this way.
If you have a bunch of pills to give and the meatball method is too much “junk food” consider adding a “chaser” once you have the pill in your dog’s mouth. I have used either moist treats or a syringe with chicken broth in it. Pill goes in, and is immediately followed by the chaser. The dog is forced to swallow the pill so he doesn’t have to spit out the chaser.
Chances are one of the above methods will work at getting your dog’s pill down him. You might also consult your vet to see if there is a palatable liquid version of the medication. We have done this with Killian’s epilepsy medicine, and it has been much easier on both of us.
Do you have any creative ways you have found to get pills down your dog? Please post them in the comments below!
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